Skip links

Facts about Chimpanzees for Kids


Chimpanzee, sometimes colloquially chimp, is the common name for the two extant species of ape in the genus Pan. The Congo River forms the boundary between the native habitat of the two species: Common chimpanzee, Pan troglodytes (West and Central Africa) Bonobo, Pan paniscus (forests of the Democratic Republic of the Congo) Chimpanzees are members of the Hominidae family, along with gorillas, humans, and orangutans.

  • Chimpanzees split from the human branch of the family about 4 to 6 million years ago.
  • The two chimpanzee species are the closest living relatives to humans, all being members of the Hominini tribe (along with extinct species of Hominina subtribe).
  • The two Pan species split only about one million years ago.
  • The genus Pan is considered to be part of the subfamily Homininae to which humans also belong.
  • Existing chimpanzee populations in West and Central Africa do not overlap with the major human fossil sites in East Africa.
  • The bonobo is a little shorter and thinner than the common chimpanzee, but has longer limbs.
  • The common chimpanzee has an omnivorous diet, a troop hunting culture based on beta males led by an alpha male, and highly complex social relationships.
  • In some chimpanzee communities, the young females may inherit high status from a high-ranking mother.
  • Before the discovery of tool use in chimps, humans were believed to be the only species to make and use tools, but several other tool-using species are now known.
  • Chimps, as well as other apes, had also been purported to have been known to Western writers in ancient times, but mainly as myths and legends on the edge of European and Arab societal consciousness, mainly through fragmented and sketchy accounts of European adventurers.
  • Darwin’s theory of natural selection (published in 1859) spurred scientific interest in chimpanzees, as in much of life science, leading eventually to numerous studies of the animals in the wild and captivity.
  • Both men and their colleagues established laboratory studies of chimpanzees focused specifically on learning about the intellectual abilities of chimpanzees, particularly problem-solving.
  • The August 2008 issue of the American Journal of Primatology reported results of a year-long study of chimpanzees in Tanzania’s Mahale Mountains National Park, which produced evidence of chimpanzees becoming sick from viral infectious diseases they have likely contracted from humans.
  • Two federally funded laboratories use chimps: Yerkes National Primate Research Laboratory at Emory University in AtlantaGeorgia, and the Southwest National Primate Center in San Antonio, Texas.
  • With the publication of the chimpanzee genome, plans to increase the use of chimps in labs are reportedly increasing, with some scientists arguing the federal moratorium on breeding chimps for research should be lifted.
  • Chimpanzees, gorillas, and orangutans show laughter-like vocalizations in response to physical contact, such as wrestling, play-chasing, or tickling.